Yesterday, Allison and I saw an inspiring and moving documentary called War Dance, playing at the Angelika Film Center (for those of you in NYC). The film follows the lives of three children who live in northern Uganda and attend school in the Patongo refugee camp. In spite of the violence and grief that these children have experienced in the northern war zone, they travel with their classmates to Kampala to compete in the finals of Uganda’s national music and dance competition. As the students prepare for the competition, the film shows how important music and dance are in their daily lives. One girl says that singing helps her forget about the violence and the horrific events from her past.
The cinematography is incredible, although some of the shots look too glossy and some scenes look too staged. The most powerful parts of the film occur when one of the children would look right into the camera and talk about his or her past, such as their family separation or the murder of their parents. Although filled with grief, the children also express joy and pride in the traditional dances, music and songs that they perform at the competition. At one point, you can actually see the stage shaking as they stamp their feet to the rhythm of the drums. See a clip and learn more about the film here.